Celebrating Ancient Traditions

Goathland Plough Stots held their annual Day of Dance on 18th January 2020, upholding the ancient tradition of sword-dancing in the farming villages of North Yorkshire. One of the few remaining teams in the UK, the Plough Stots have not only survived but thrived in recent years, adding a women’s and a junior team to their male troops of dancers.

The dance itself is a circular march performed by six or eight dancers carrying semi-rigid, blunt longswords which concludes with the formation of a star shaped lock, often referred to as a ‘rose’. It has evolved from a much older tradition of ‘blessing the plough’ when the young farming lads of the village dragged a replica plough through the streets to the local church each January so that it could be blessed for the coming year.

Commenting on the success of this year’s event Duchy Head of Rural Christopher Sparrow said: “The Plough Stots Committee has worked extremely hard over the years to encourage people to participate in longsword dancing, including giving lessons in local schools. As a result a junior Plough Stots troop took part this month for the first time in 30 years. I congratulate everyone involved in supporting the Plough Stots on keeping the tradition alive and extending the appeal of this event to a new generation.”

Originally based at the Reading Room on Goathland Common, the Plough Stots are now headquartered at the Village Community Hub where they rehearse, store equipment and memorabilia and put on occasional public displays. Run entirely by volunteers the Plough Stots are hugely actively in the community and regularly raise funds for charitable causes. Last year, they took on the Three Peaks Challenge, performing a longsword dance at the top of each Peak and raising £8,014.88 for the Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group in the process.

The Duchy of Lancaster’s Goathland Estate covers approximately 4,324 hectares and includes a large area of internationally important heather moorland, the majority of which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The moors are also featured in several films and television productions including Harry Potter and Heartbeat.

For more information on the Plough Stots and their schedule of performances, please visit www.gothlandploughstots.co.uk.